It was the best of times, it was the worst of times – not really, right now it just sucks. I have rarely been shocked in the world of college sports. With news breaking yesterday that Todd Gurley might have played his last game as a Bulldog has shocked me.
I had my write up ready to go with Georgia winning by a touchdown. Hours later, I still sit in shock at the Gurley announcement, but I have reevaluated the game and have a new prediction.
Will the Bulldogs keep their march for Atlanta alive or will Missouri benefit from a second consecutive Gurley free season?
Why Missouri Can Win This Game
We have mentioned the absence of Gurley and that is a big factor. Had Sony Michel or Keith Marshall been healthy, the blow would not have been as severe. Georgia has been dominant on the ground this season, but now they are down to their second and fifth option in Nick Chubb and Brendan Douglas
Did we mention that Hutson Mason has been in a slump, and Missouri might have the best defensive line in the SEC? Moreover, the Missouri offense has been inconsistent, but the Georgia secondary has a way of helping teams find a groove early.
The running game for Missouri is very solid as well. Russell Hansbrough and Marcus Murphy have combined for 733 yards and six touchdowns on 131 carries. In other words, the Missouri offense has many options, and Georgia’s defense has been Dr. jekyll and Mr. hyde this season.
Why Georgia Can Win This Game
The best player in college football is gone. Several other key components are missing as well. Gurley has been doing it all for UGA, but it doesn’t mean he is the only one on the team that can do it.
Chubb and Douglas are two very physical runners and, to beat Missouri, the Dawgs will need to play “old man football.” Also, the Bulldogs have their two burners back at wide receiver, and that is huge. Not only will they stretch the field, but it should free up the running backs catching the football out of the backfield as well.
The secondary has been horrific for UGA, but they’re a game older. Moreover, South Carolina has an inexperienced secondary as well, and Mizzou quarterback Maty Mauk was an anemic 12-of-34 for 132 yards against them.
The linebackers will need to play to their potential level, but the talent is clearly there. Georgia will need to play mistake free football, but they are due a complete game.
I usually give you one, but this week I am going to list two. For Georgia to win this game they will need Isaiah McKenzie to have a couple of returns where he flips the field.
Against a good defense like Missouri, this will be crucial. They might be short Gurley’s long runs, but a couple of 20+ yard punt returns from McKenzie will help cancel those out.
The second is running back Brendan Douglas. He had some big plays last season in place of Gurley and will need some this week to give Chubb a break. Douglas did have a couple crucial turnovers last season but had some big plays as well.
Against Missouri last season, he had 113 offensive yards (70 rushing, 43 passing) and a touchdown. If he can put up similar numbers while Chubb does his thing, the Bulldogs will have a shot in the fourth.
Prior to the start of the season, I picked UGA to win the national championship with just one regular season defeat. It would be easy to put an asterisk on that decision now with the uncertainty of Gurley.
However, I am not ready to jump ship just yet. I believe something is going to happen this game, if Gurley does return, that will be the launching pad for their national championship run. This game could help Hutson Mason get his swagger back.
Hutson is a talented quarterback but has lost his confidence. If he can play well in this game, it could be the start of a strong finish.
I believe Missouri is going to come out early and get a sizable lead. This will force the Bulldogs to throw caution into the wind and speed up the offense – this is where Mason is best.
Remember Georgia Tech last season? This game will have a similar feel. When the Bulldogs look dead, they will reach deep inside and find a way to fight back.
Once they loosen up the Missouri defense with the pass, Chubb will have a big day.
Score Prediction: UGA 35, Missouri 31
Stat Prediction: Hutson Mason, 275 yards passing